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From Police Officer to Drug Lord: The Rise of Mexico’s Most Wanted Man

May 22, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
From Police Officer to Drug Lord: The Rise of Mexico’s Most Wanted Man

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Written by Michael Lohmuller

The Jalisco Cartel’s rapid ascent, and the meteoric rise of its leader from a relative unknown to a notorious drug lord, follow a criminal evolution seen with other groups in Mexico.

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho,” has been at the head of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation’s (CJNG) transformation. Jalisco state officials told BBC Mundo that El Mencho is now “the principal enemy of the government” and someone authorities consider “extremely dangerous.”

A former municipal police officer in Jalisco state, El Mencho has become a savvy strategist who has been able to adapt the CJNG to take advantage of changes in drug consumption, initially producing methamphetamine and then moving to heroin production, according to a risk consultant interviewed by BBC Mundo.

el mencho from gob page of wanted (1)

One of the few known photos of El Mencho

Previously a relatively unknown group, the CJNG gained prominence in April with a bold attack against security forces that resulted in the deaths of 15 police officers.

Since then, the group has continued on its rampage, shooting down a military helicopter on May 1, and spreading terror throughout the state of Jalisco. In response, the Mexican government has mobilized security forces as part of “Operation Jalisco,” aimed at dismantling the upstart group.

As BBC Mundo notes, in five years the CJNG has evolved from being hired muscle for the Sinaloa Cartel to becoming one of Mexico’s dominant criminal organizations. According to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, the CJNG now has a presence in at least eight states, and has become a major player in the drug trade.

The rapid rise of the CJNG and El Mencho — who just a few months ago were considered minor players in Mexico’s criminal underworld — can be explained by several factors.

guerrererosCJNG (2)

One is the CJNG’s aggressive tactics and sensationalist acts of violence over the past weeks, which have demonstrated the group’s strength and raised its profile, garnering international headlines. Nonetheless, the extent of the CJNG’s international drug contacts and ability to corrupt state institutions remains unclear, and the reach of the cartel’s influence may not yet match its capacity for violence.

Another factor is the capture or death of a number of top Mexican drug traffickers, clearing the way for relatively unknown groups and figures to rise in importance and visibility.

The CJNG has its roots in the Milenio Cartel, and started out as hired muscle for the Sinaloa Cartel before splintering off on its own when the Milenio Cartel suffered internal divisions and fragmented.

drug lords captured

The arrests of the major cartel heads has helped the meteoric rise of the CJNG

This evolution has been seen before with other Mexican groups like the Zetas. Originally founded as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas struck out on their own after the capture of a former Gulf Cartel leader, similarly gaining notoriety for their brutal and confrontational tactics.


El Mencho is from the Tierra Caliente region of Mexico’s Pacific Michoacan state. According to an April 2015 press release from the US Treasury Department, he has been significantly involved in drug trafficking activities since the 1990s. In 1994, the US District Court for the Northern District of California sentenced him to three years in prison for conspiracy to distribute heroin. Following his release, he returned to Mexico, where he served as a police officer in Cabo Corrientes and Tomatlan in the state of Jalisco. In time, however, he would leave the police to continue his drug trafficking activities and join the Milenio Cartel.

After first working in the assassin network that protected Armando Valencia Cornelio, alias “El Maradona,” El Mencho went on to join a Milenio Cartel bloc allied with Sinaloa Cartelcapo Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, alias “Nacho Coronel.” This group moved drugs, managed finances, and acted as enforcers for the Sinaloa Cartel in the states of Jalisco and Colima.

By 2010, however, following the death of Nacho Coronel and capture of Milenio Cartel leader Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia, alias “El Lobo,” the Milenio Cartel had split into two factions: “Los Torcidos” and “La Resistencia.” These two divisions engaged in a battle for control over drug trafficking in Jalisco, with Los Torcidos evolving into the present-day CJNG with El Mencho as their leader.

Under El Mencho, the CJNG began expanding and consolidating its control over drug trafficking in Jalisco and surrounding states, taking on rival cartels the Zetas and Knights Templar. In August 2012, despite initial reports that he had been captured, El Menchoescaped an operation carried out by Mexican security forces against the CJNG in Guadalajara. In order to impede the work of the police and allow members time to flee, the cartel created dozens of roadblocks, setting fire to vehicles on key roads throughout the city.

El Mencho has continued to elude authorities, despite the CJNG’s increasing strength — and aggressive and violent tactics — resulting in increased attention and pressure from security forces.

Criminal Activities

As head of the CJNG, El Mencho directs the group’s drug trafficking operations through the states of Jalisco, Colima, and Guanajuato, where the cartel is a major player in the methamphetamine trade.

El Mencho is also thought to have ordered several assassinations of Mexican politicians. In March 2013, a suspect in the murder of Jalisco’s Tourism Secretary, Jesus Gallegos Alvarez, said El Mencho had authorized the hit based on the suspicion that the official was working for the Knights Templar. The CJNG is also believed to be behind the September 2014 assassination of Congressman Gabriel Gomez Michel. While the motive was unclear, Michel was the former mayor of El Grullo, a CJNG stronghold in Jalisco state where El Mencho reportedly moves around freely.


The CJNG has established a presence in at least eight Mexican states — plus the Federal District, where Mexico City is located — with its base of operations in Jalisco and Colima. El Mencho uses Pacific routes to move drugs, importing cocaine from Colombiaand ephedrine from China through the port of Manzanillo in Colima state.

El Mencho reportedly has his personal base of operations in El Grullo, Jalisco.

Enemies and Allies

The CJNG’s principal enemies are the Zetas and Knights Templar, and the cartel has been accused of supplying weapons to self-defense groups who fought the Knights Templar in Michoacan. Mexican authorities believed El Mencho was a long-time ally of Juan Jose Farias, alias “El Abuelo,” who had been identified as a top member of the Milenio Cartel. Farias’ brother, Uriel, is a former mayor of the town of Tepalcatepec in Michoacan, an area where local militias took up arms against the Knights Templar in 2013.

The CJNG also allegedly works closely with the Sinaloa Cartel. El Mencho’s son, Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, alias “El Menchito,” was reportedly an ally of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. In January 2014, however, El Menchito was captured in Guadalajara. He was believed to be El Mencho’s right-hand man and the Jalisco Cartel’s second-in-command.

Additionally, El Mencho and Abigael Gonzalez Valencia — leader of the Cuinis criminal group — are brothers-in-law, resulting in a “close alliance” between the two, according to the US Treasury Department. Some Mexican media, citing intelligence information, have even suggested Gonzalez Valencia is in fact running the CJNG, contradicting the commonly held belief that El Mencho is the cartel’s top leader.

El Mencho (L) and El Cuini (R) are listed as the richest drug traffickers in the world

El Mencho (L) and  his brother in law El Cuini (R)

The US Treasury Department claims the CJNG also has ties to other criminal organizations in the United States, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Reports have also surfaced that CJNG leaders have received training from Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.


The CJNG has become synonymous with the use of sensationalist acts of violence, with a 2011 massacre of 35 people in Veracruz and an April 2015 attack that left 15 Mexican police officers dead among its more notable aggressions. In May 2015, the CJNG alsoshot down a military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade. These attacks demonstrated the group’s strength and aggressive leadership, and earned the CJNG and El Mencho notoriety and government attention.

This attention, however, has also turned El Mencho and other CJNG leaders into high-profile targets. It remains to be seen how much longer El Mencho is able to avoid capture or death at the hands of security forces.



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